People who need to free their souls are those who already passed away and were related to us. Similar to praying for health and peace, we need to show respect and loving-kindness to all the souls that we pray for.
- When praying for someone’s soul to be free, we should practice cultivation on behalf of that soul. For example, we make vows to chant and bow deeply in Amitabha Repentance, Earth Treasury Repentance, and Kwan Yin Repentance. Or we vow to recite Buddha’s name in many days, many months; or practice cultivation, do good deeds, make offerings, and do volunteer works. All these things are very important to the soul because they express our sincerity and loving-kindness, showing that we really practice on the soul’s behalf.
- When entering the Amitabha Dharma Assembly, we should write the name of the soul on an ancestral tablet. This tablet represents the body of the soul.
- Every time we do repentance bowing or chanting, we should place the ancestral tablet next to us or wear it on a string. This is to show our respect to the soul and our awareness that the soul has the capacity to play an active role in practicing with the great assembly and become enlightened.
- When entering the Mandala assembly, we should also bring the spirit tablets with us. Invite the souls to practice with the great assembly and integrate with the lights of the Buddhas. Always remind them: “Everyone of us has an innate Buddha nature, with bright light in our mind. It is this uncreated, eternal light that is our true home (the soul), that is the true and indestructible body of the soul.”
- When the great assembly recites the Mantra for Rebirth in the Pure Land, we should think: “Dear soul, please become this uncreated, eternal, and boundless light!”
- When the spirit tablet is brought to the Light of the Self-Nature circle, it is also the time when the soul will integrate with the lights of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and become free and liberated. Therefore we should always concentrate and pray for the soul to practice diligently with the great assembly.
Since we have the good condition and means to practice, we should always dedicate our merits and share our blessings, happiness, joy, and loving-kindness with all those in our karmic web, living or dead. We should always think: “I practice for the sake of everyone in our entire karmic web.” Think especially of the babies that have died before they were born, those who died suddenly, or those who could not control themselves in their final moments.
- Regarding the world of hungry ghosts, not only are they deprived of food to sustain their lives, they also lack the light to nurture their character. Those lights are warmth, empathy, loving-kindness, forgiveness, tenderness, patience, caring, and letting go of anger and resentment. Therefore when we pray for their souls to be free, we should also send them the above characters, which represent the lights.